Church of our Lady of the Assumption and Saint Gregory

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Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Gregory, Westminster
London Warwick Street Church Front.JPG
51°30′40″N 0°08′17″W / 51.51123°N 0.13792°W / 51.51123; -0.13792Coordinates: 51°30′40″N 0°08′17″W / 51.51123°N 0.13792°W / 51.51123; -0.13792
LocationSoho, Westminster, London
WebsiteChurch of our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory, Westminster
Consecrated24 July 1928
Heritage designationGrade II*
Designated24 February 1958
Architect(s)Joseph Bonomi the Elder
Years built1789–90
MetropolisPersonal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham
DioceseRoman Catholic Archdiocese of Westminster

The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Gregory is a Roman Catholic church on Warwick Street, Westminster. It was formerly known as the Royal Bavarian Chapel, since like several Roman Catholic churches in London it has its origin in a chapel within a foreign embassy. It was built between 1789 and 1790 to the designs of Joseph Bonomi the Elder.[1] The only surviving eighteenth century Roman Catholic chapel in London,[1] it is a Grade II* listed building.[2]


History plaque on the church

The origins of the church lie in the chapel established in the 1730s at the Portuguese Embassy on 24 Golden Square. At this time, with the English Penal Laws in force, most Roman Catholic chapels existed under the protection, and within the precincts, of foreign embassies.[1] Responsibility for the chapel passed to the Bavarian embassy in 1747 but it was destroyed in the Gordon Riots in 1780. The replacement church was designed by Joseph Bonomi the Elder, an Italian architect and draughtsman, who had moved to London in 1767 to work in the practice of Robert and James Adam. Prayers continued to be said for the King of Bavaria, and the church described as the Royal Bavarian Chapel, until 1871.[3]

The church has attracted many prominent Catholic worshippers, including Mrs Fitzherbert, who was sacramentally, but not civilly married to George IV,[4] and the young Cardinal Newman.[4] The Irish politician Daniel O'Connell attended regularly when in London.[5] The Victorian explorer and translator of the Karma Sutra Sir Richard Burton married in the church [5] and the novelist Evelyn Waugh had his second wedding here in 1937.[6] In 1983, the funeral mass for Ralph Richardson, a regular worshipper, was held at the church.

In the early 21st century, the church was the home of "one of the most successful LGBT Catholic parishes in the world".[7] For six years, these "Soho masses" offered twice-monthly services “particularly welcoming to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Catholics, their parents, friends and families”.[8] In 2013, under pressure from the Vatican, they were forced to move to Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street in nearby Mayfair; Archbishop Vincent Nichols attended their first mass there in 2013.[9] In the same year the church was entrusted to the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.[10]


The exterior is of plain brick, stained red in 1952.[1] The brick facade was deliberately "unassuming",[1] in response to the destruction of the earlier chapel, and the gilded stars and angels which now decorate the facade date from the 1950s.[1] It is of three bays and two storeys.[2]


The interior retains some of its Georgian decoration, but the church was restored and altered in the Victorian period, firstly in renovations carried out by John Erlam, in 1853,[11] which also saw the installation, over the altar, of the bas-relief of the Assumption, by John Edward Carew.[1] A second period of restoration took place from 1874, under the direction of John Francis Bentley,[1] the architect of Westminster Cathedral.

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  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Bradley & Pevsner, p. 393.
  2. ^ a b "Our Lady of the Assumption Roman Catholic Church – Westminster – Greater London – England". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 28 February 2018.
  3. ^ Hetts 2010, pp. 26-27.
  4. ^ a b "About the Parish". Retrieved 18 January 2015.
  5. ^ a b Hatts 2010, pp. 26-27.
  6. ^ "Person Page". Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  7. ^ Shea, Matt (8 January 2013). "Getting Emotional with London's Gay Catholics". Vice. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  8. ^ "Archbishop Nichols ends 'Soho Masses' after six years". Catholic Herald. 2 January 2013. Retrieved 5 November 2016.
  9. ^ Cameron-Mowat, Andrew. "LGBT Catholics Westminster". Retrieved 6 September 2017. In December 2012 Archbishop Vincent Nichols asked the Provincial of the Jesuits in Britain and myself to offer meeting spaces on Farm Street Parish premises for the LGBT Catholic Community which had previously met at Our Lady of The Assumption and St Gregory, Warwick Street. In March 2013, LGBT Catholics joined the regular congregation at the evening Mass, followed by a reception and meeting with the Archbishop and members of the parish. Over the following weeks, on every 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month, the group has gathered to celebrate Mass together with regular parishioners at the new time of 5.30pm, and to meet for tea and coffee afterwards in the parish hall. Mgr Keith Barltrop, Parish Priest of St Mary of the Angels, Bayswater, is the Archbishop’s personal liaison with the group.
  10. ^ Thornton, Ed (4 January 2013). "Gay mass to stop, as Ordinariate given church". Church Times. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  11. ^ "Golden Square Area: Warwick Street". Retrieved 18 January 2015.


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